The Enlightened Business Traveler
Gaining the Upper Hand in a Business Downturn
Written and Produced by Mark Patiky
“There’s no substitute for reaching across a desk and shaking someone’s hand,” says David H. Park, a venture capitalist based in Foster City, Calif. Like tens of thousands of other businesses and individuals in the U.S., Park discovered that access to his own plane gives him the freedom and flexibility to forge the most enduring business relationships. When the economy wavers, the strength of those relationships often separates success from regret.
Executives like Park aren’t taking any chances. “It’s my job to put together people, money and opportunity, and I can’t do that on an airline schedule,” he says.
The president of a Florida-based national clothing retailer agrees. With easy access to key customers using his Avantair fractional share, he says, “I make deals that I probably wouldn’t have made before because we can make a decision right now. Having the plane is not a convenience, it’s a necessity.”
And while many consider their mobile phone a global business connection, real estate investor Sean Leder, chief executive officer of The Leder Group, thinks otherwise. “In a world in which so much business is conducted on BlackBerry devices and laptops, my Marquis Jet Card allows me to get people together, conduct real business and resolve issues face-to-face. It is an unbelievably efficient use of my time,” he says.
Seeing Eye to Eye
No matter how advanced communications technology becomes, the most successful executives know that nothing beats an old-fashioned handshake. “In this age of technology, a lot of people take personal relationships for granted. I think they’re making a big mistake,” says one insurance broker from St. Louis, Mo. But in today’s expanding marketplace, nurturing relationships from coast to coast and across the globe takes more than just dedication. It takes transportation.
So it’s little wonder that business aircraft sales soared an astonishing 24.1% and business jet deliveries increased by a whopping 39% in the first half of 2008 over 2007, points out Jim Schuster, chairman and chief executive officer of business aircraft manufacturer Hawker Beechcraft. Despite the economic downturn in the U.S., we see significant activity in global markets, says Schuster. “We’re experiencing new market dynamics.” New business development blossoming in Russia, India and the Pacific Rim makes business aircraft an invaluable necessity abroad. “These are rapidly emerging markets,” says Schuster, underscoring fertile opportunity for U.S. business interests. International aircraft sales are approaching 60% of U.S. manufacturing volume owing to rapid business development and demand for efficient transportation abroad augmented by attractive dollar pricing.
From independent firms to multinational corporations, every size business needs an effective way to nourish its roots. “When you’re a global company you still have to act like a local company,” explains the chief executive officer of a Florida-based software manufacturer. He attributes the company’s outstanding growth to the strategic use of an ultra-long-range jet. “You have to be out there with your customers and find out what’s really going on — it’s amazing what that really does,” he says.
Gil Wolin, senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications for JetDirect Aviation, agrees. “The company plane has become an absolute necessity in today’s business environment,” he says. “If you need to be out in the marketplace, it can be the best and most efficient way to get there.”
Transform Your Life
With access to a business aircraft, you go to the local airport, climb aboard and take off. You can take advantage of thousands of small local airports at which you can touch down closer to your destination. And you travel on your schedule, not the airlines’. “It’s unbelievable to be able to land where I need to be, do what I need to do and get back to the plane with literally no downtime,” says Leder.
The Enlightened Business Traveler is your personal guide to the extraordinary new and evolving world of business aviation. It examines a wide range of aircraft types, from sophisticated small planes you can fly yourself to long-range, large-cabin jets equipped with all the amenities of a land-based office — secure phone lines, wide-screen TVs with satellite programming, wireless high-speed Internet and more. In addition, the most up-to-date technology on the flight deck gets you where you’re going more quickly and safely than ever before. And with scheduling on demand to more than 5,000 communities in the U.S. and thousands more around the world, you’ll quickly see how your productivity will soar. Most important, you’ll witness how businesses just like yours are using these strategic tools to save time in the air and on the ground to gain a significant competitive advantage in today’s challenging marketplace. The best part is, you don’t even have to own an airplane to reap these amazing benefits. A wide range of access opportunities makes business aircraft advantages more affordable and available to a massive audience than ever before.
“For me, there’s nothing that’s worth more than my time. [Having access to the planes]
is absolutely the best, most life-enhancing thing I’ve done since I’ve become successful.”
Bobbi Brown, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
When O.M. Scott’s Marysville, Ohio-based premium grass seed business sprouted in 1868, Scott could never have imagined that his seedling would grow to be the world’s largest provider of lawn, garden and horticultural products. Now known as The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, it is a global leader in an $8 billion consumer lawn and garden market.
Scotts cultivates its competitive advantage with three business jets — a large-cabin Dassault Falcon 900 and two smaller cabin jets. Combined, they fly more than 1,800 hours annually, maximizing productivity for Scotts’ senior executives.
With its unique three-engine, fuel-efficient, high-performance design, the Falcon can depart the short 4,200-foot runway in Marysville and fly nonstop to either coast. Ironically, Scotts’ smaller, shorter-range jets must fly from a larger airport farther away.
Frequent daily, out-and-back and multiple-stop trips truly prove the jets’ value. They boost Scotts’ ability to remain in close contact with facilities, customers and suppliers who are often located in commercially hard-to-reach places like Albuquerque, N.M., Des Moines, Iowa, and Napa, Calif., says Director of Flight Operations Matthew Clifford. “We can respond to ever-changing needs in the market, and we can be anywhere in just a couple of hours.” Visiting customers like Lowes in North Wilkesboro, N.C., and Wal-Mart in Bentonville, Ark., could mean a seven-hour commercial trek, but in the company jet, they are less than two hours away.
Saving time is one thing, but Scotts’ passengers also take advantage of their travel time. “[Our executives] conduct meetings in the air and use the cabin as a workplace from the minute they board,” Clifford says. After landing, the spacious Falcon cabin with all its amenities can double as a ground-based mobile office. It’s the ideal comfortable and secure location to discuss business, he adds.
As Scotts’ international business continues to bud, the tri-jet Falcon 900 — with its reliability, long range and remarkable fuel efficiency — provides additional advantages. Frequent nonstop trips to Europe are as easy as domestic ones. Recently, executives conducted two-hour meetings on the plane at airports in Germany, England and Ireland and returned within 28 hours. Traveling commercially, the five executives would have lost a week or more.
“When you have your most important people sitting in airline terminals, that’s not the way to go. You’ve got to value your upper managers’ time. We wouldn’t be the same company without these planes,” he emphasizes.
With the recent announcement of record third-quarter sales, it’s clear that Scotts’ business jets are a perfect complement to its Miracle-Gro product line. Doing business with this kind of efficiency is priceless, says Clifford.
Latest-generation business aircraft offer far more than transportation, says David Woo, Rockwell Collins’ director of flight deck systems marketing. They are sophisticated business centers with a profusion of enhancements for communications and control, he notes. Rockwell Collins is leading that transformation with innovative technology and new applications that add astonishing levels of value and usability to the aircraft cabin and adaptability and utility on the flight deck. It’s all about greater productivity in the cabin; greater airport access, particularly under challenging conditions; and enhanced efficiency, Woo emphasizes.
Never Out of Touch
In fact, today’s executives may elect to transact important business deals while airborne rather than on terra firma, given the cabin’s sophisticated functionality and flexibility.
The digital lifestyle is pervasive in every facet of life, Woo underscores. “We want there to be an uninterrupted, seamless transition” from the ground to the sky and back again, so you’re never out of touch.
At night, traveling high above the Pacific at 51,000 feet and 600 mph, there’s no need to wonder what’s happening half a world away. You simply check the closing Hang Seng Index on your seat-side LCD screen. The latest worldwide news, weather, sports and financials are at your fingertips on Rockwell Collins’ innovative Airshow 4000, providing real-time global text-based information wherever you are, whenever you need it. And Rockwell Collins eXchange™ integrates high-speed broadband Internet capabilities with global satellite communications, so you can place a trade, view data on a secure company server or delight in scanned images of your week-old granddaughter as easily as you would from your office or home. And now you can tune into live broadcast TV while over the U.S., Europe or the Middle East.
Experience a New World Aloft
Rockwell Collins’ Venue™ takes the passenger experience to a completely new level with a digital media center that wirelessly runs anything you’d find at home, from high-definition video to iPod and MP3 audio. These cabin improvements provide passengers with the ultimate remote control. So sit back, relax and, with the flick of a switch, control cabin temperature, lighting, sound volume, music source and digital imagery.
Up front on the flight deck, even more exciting things are happening. Equipped with enhanced vision, pilots can land more safely and easily at night and in challenging terrain or weather, thanks to real-time infrared imaging. According to Woo, when this is combined with synthetic vision, pilots gain the advantage of a daylight-quality, digitally created three-dimensional view of terrain and obstructions so they can make approaches and landings in the worst weather as confidently as they do on a clear, sunny day. These combined systems offer the ultimate situational awareness and safety enhancements. Now pilots can view images like a hologram overlaid on the real world as seen through the windscreen.
There’s no question that tomorrow’s business jet will take you where you need to go quickly and efficiently. However, it’s the time aloft that offers travelers a much richer, more useful experience and opportunity than ever before.
Despite a turbulent U.S. economy, rapidly evolving markets around the globe demonstrate a strong need for mobility. “It’s times like this when you have to work harder — but you’ve also got to work smarter,” says the chief executive officer of a manufacturing firm in the Northeast. He uses his wholly owned business jet to frequent his diverse domestic customer base, while a management firm handles the operational details. And his airplane is only a phone call away.
According to Jake Cartwright, president and chief executive officer of aircraft management firm JetDirect Aviation, first-time aircraft buyers are entering the market at a record pace, and they are choosing mid-size and large-cabin jets that provide direct coast-to-coast and global access.
Comments JetDirect Aviation’s Wolin, “Although the domestic economy may have hit a speed bump, this trend toward larger-cabin aircraft underscores the need to explore rapidly developing business opportunities abroad. It’s essential to be out in the market developing new business and making the best use of one’s time.”
Outsourcing to Experts
Increasingly, buyers are turning to outside experts like JetDirect Aviation to handle the technical challenges of crew maintenance, regulatory issues, insurance and other requirements. The company’s aircraft acquisition specialists also help prospective buyers make the right choice with regard to the specific aircraft that best suits the buyer’s requirements and guide buyers to top experts on legal, tax and financial issues.
Now a global giant in the aircraft management and charter business, JetDirect is a newly organized amalgam of the nation’s most reputable and experienced aircraft operations specialists. Cartwright emphasizes that all JetDirect Aviation aircraft in the managed or charter fleet are maintained and flown to the industry’s most demanding standards, promising unsurpassed quality, consistency and safety. He is committed to incorporating rigorous airline procedures within every facet of the organization. When choosing a management firm, says independent consultant Bill de Decker, managing partner of Conklin & de Decker Aviation Information, that level of commitment and dedication is essential.
“We need an airplane to go out and touch our customers and bring our customers
back to see our facilities. I can take my two creative directors, our media director and
account executives and make the best use of a new business presentation.”
Jim Mudd, Jr., Mudd Advertising
JetDirect Aviation manages and operates more than 300 aircraft ranging from small-cabin jets to globe-shrinking ultra-long-range behemoths, owned by some of America’s most prestigious companies. The company’s aircraft management philosophy promises personalized service implemented locally and supported by significant national resources and unprecedented expertise in all facets of aircraft operations. In fact, JetDirect Aviation has established more than 200 custom flight operations at some 50 locations throughout the nation, each with a dedicated flight crew, maintenance and on-site operations manager. This service is particularly attractive for long-range large- and mid-size aircraft owners. Regional-range, smaller-cabin aircraft that can more effectively share those services operate from eight centralized JetDirect Aviation locations around the country.
Owners whose aircraft fly significantly less than the industry norm make them available for charter when they would be otherwise be unutilized. The charter revenues offset part of the fixed ownership costs, points out Cartwright, and this helps owners maximize the returns on their investment.
De Decker adds that a large, high-quality management company not only takes care of every aspect of the aircraft operation, but because of its far-reaching experience, can do so at a higher level of efficiency and consistency, and at a lower cost than the individual owner-operator could afford. He emphasizes that with volume-purchasing ability for fuel, training, insurance and maintenance, costs are lower and these savings can pass directly to the owner. “We find that these significantly reduced operating costs typically offset almost 100% of our management fee,” Cartwright says.
It was a marriage made in heaven when two independent companies realized their travel requirements overlapped. Why not share a plane? With offices in Chicago and Cedar Falls, Iowa, and significant business in many of the same domestic locales, Mudd Advertising and Peregrine Financial Group (PMG) teamed up to jointly purchase a small-cabin Hawker Beechcraft Hawker 400.
This unlikely duo — an automotive advertising firm with clients in 50 states, headed by Chief Executive Officer Jim Mudd, Jr., and an international financial brokerage house and online trading giant with 600 offices worldwide, led by Chief Executive Officer Russell Wasendorf, Sr. — is now flying high. The companies have supercharged new business opportunities and gained easy, efficient access to geographically diverse clients typically located well off commercial airline routes. Whether you drive the 300 miles between Chicago and Cedar Falls or fly commercially, it takes five to six hours, says Wasendorf. In contrast, the Hawker 400 does it in 45 minutes.
Aloft a whopping 600 hours a year, jointly owning the plane provides each company with financial and scheduling benefits. “It’s easy to dovetail our schedules. Most of the time we share at least one of the legs,” explains Wasendorf. For example, when he and his team headed to New York, the flight routed via Pittsburgh to drop Mudd executives at a client site.
Responsible for managing PMG’s 1,000 employees, Wasendorf’s five key executives, residing in Chicago, Long Island and Cedar Falls, get business done on the fly when they travel. “The big thing is being able to move our executive team around quickly,” says Wasendorf. “We are traveling at all times, and it’s a benefit to get together in the most time-efficient way.” En route, the cabin is the perfect place to discuss business without interruption, he notes.
Mudd Advertising, which creates radio, TV, Web and print ads for some 700 auto dealerships, began in a home office in 1981. Today, Mudd’s team is revving its creative engine in a new 36,000-square-foot Cedar Falls production studio. While the agency’s creative focus is on the latest Internet technology, it’s the face-to-face relationships with clients that drive the business, explains Mudd. “We need an airplane to go out and touch our customers and bring our customers back to see our facilities,” he says. It’s the best way to wow a client, and the nimble Hawker 400 makes that easy.
“I can take my two creative directors, our media director and account executives and make the best use of a new business presentation,” says Mudd. Visits to Lubbock, Tex., Sands Springs, Okla., Manchester, N.H., and South Bend, Ind., each require a full day of commercial travel each way. Now they fly direct in an hour or two and return to the office that afternoon. “How do you put a price on convenience and flexibility to go when you want to, on valuable time saved and lack of wear and tear?” Mudd asks. “Once you have a plane and actually use it, then you start to understand.”
No other innovation has changed business aviation like fractional ownership. Originally conceived by NetJets’ Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Santulli, fractional ownership revolutionized business travel by making business jet benefits available and affordable to a massive new audience. The newfound flexibility and convenience of buying time as you need it introduced private jet travel to businesses and individuals in numbers far greater than anyone, including Santulli, ever imagined.
Unprecedented Financial Leverage
If you only plan to fly for 50 or 100 hours a year, Santulli reasoned, why buy a whole aircraft if you could instead buy only what you’ll actually use? So, if your preferred jet sells for $8 million, 50 annual hours of use should cost only $500,000, imparting extraordinary financial leverage. For a comparatively smaller investment, your plane, or an identical one, is just a phone call away anytime and anywhere. Whether you want it in Paducah or Palm Springs or planes in both places at once, they can be there, guaranteed. You gain all the advantages of owning a whole airplane for a fraction of the cost: the tax benefits, the option to select a larger or smaller aircraft at any time, and the ability to call for multiple aircraft for, say, a board meeting, customer visit or family gathering where people are coming from diverse locations. What could be better?
After the initial investment, owners pay monthly management fees plus a charge for each flight hour, but only for time spent aboard. Unlike charter, no deadhead or empty-leg charges are assessed, so one-way flights are practical. Also, most fractional ownership providers can arrange lease options, which are particularly attractive for those reluctant to tie up capital for long periods or concerned about asset-value fluctuations.
While Berkshire Hathaway-owned NetJets remains the largest fractional ownership provider with the broadest global coverage and the most diverse fleet of aircraft, five other major fractional share providers offer varied combinations of aircraft, services and owner benefits.
NetJets serves business and personal travel needs in virtually every corner of the globe with 15 different aircraft types, nearly 800 jets worldwide and 390,000 flight hours logged last year between 65,000 unique city pairs and 173 countries. In addition to its domestic fleet, NetJets is the only international fractional provider with independent fleets in Europe, the Middle East and soon in Asia. That’s a unique advantage because U.S. owners, through a comprehensive interchange program, can step off a commercial flight in London, Rome or Dubai — and eventually in Hong Kong — and a NetJets aircraft can whisk them to a local or far-distant destination.
The U.S. fleet ranges from the eight-seat, small-cabin Cessna Citation V Ultra to the globe-spanning Boeing BBJ with 18 seats, plus a bedroom.
The Choice Is Yours
Although current economic doldrums may have curtailed some domestic business travel, Santulli notes that with NetJets’ wide variety of aircraft, cost-conscious owners gain a big advantage with the ability to choose the best aircraft for each trip, selecting, for example, a smaller, more fuel-efficient aircraft for short flights with only a few passengers. International travel aboard larger-cabin aircraft remains strong, however. And one benefit of the weak dollar is that European NetJets owners are flying more frequently in the U.S. to take advantage of euro buying power.
The considerable interest in flights to China expressed by NetJets owners bodes well for a Hong Kong-based fleet that can fly unrestricted within China and the Pacific Rim. Santulli says he plans to introduce the option initially as a jet-card program, similar to the Marquis Jet Card in the U.S.
The Middle East program, now with 15 large-cabin jets, likewise continues to grow, and Santulli also anticipates considerable European expansion as a factor of the increasing interdependence of global economies.
She may make up some of the most famous faces in Hollywood, but cosmetics queen Bobbi Brown’s favorite place to be on Oscar night is next to her kids on the living room couch. So after years of hectic trips for department store visits, TV appearances and personal sessions with high-profile clients, Brown decided her travel routine needed a serious makeover.
Today, Brown owns shares in both a NetJets Citation 10 and a Hawker 400. “It’s my one luxury that has become a necessity,” she says. “It just makes everything so simple!” So simple, in fact, that Brown can even squeeze in a quick business trip in the middle of a vacation. “Those are the trips where I might not go at all if I had to go commercially,” she explains, “but NetJets makes it really easy.”
Flying the airlines, Brown’s typical destinations required at least one connection, which meant hours wasted in airport terminals. But, says Brown’s husband, Steven Plofker, the obstacles confront you long before you head to the airport for a commercial flight. “We generally don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow, much less weeks or months from now,” he explains. “And when you’re traveling with half a dozen people like we always do, you have to make those reservations far in advance, especially if you want seats together.” With NetJets, it’s a completely different experience. “It’s all about being on your own schedule — going when you want to go,” he emphasizes. “There’s no better gift than having that control.” Fortunately for Plofker, Brown agrees: “I would choose NetJets over a diamond ring anytime!” she adds.
With their plane, Brown and her family have transformed a neglected vacation home in Telluride, Colo., into a practical second residence ideal for a bicoastal businesswoman. Flying commercially from the East Coast, “that’s a seven-, eight-, even ten-hour trip,” she explains. “Flying privately, it’s just three and a half hours. So that’s quite nice.”
Most important, Brown now spends fewer nights in hotels and more nights at home on that sofa. “For me, there’s nothing that’s worth more than my time,” she says. “[Having access to the planes] is absolutely the best, most life-enhancing thing I’ve done since I’ve become successful.”
When Kenn Ricci launched Flight Options a decade ago, the fractional ownership start-up entered the market with a compelling and unique value position. By offering pre-owned aircraft equipped with the latest avionics and refurbished to virtually new standards, Flight Options created a valuable acquisition advantage. In lowering the financial barrier to entry, Ricci broadened the market. His evolutionary idea worked. Flight Options continued on a remarkable growth path developing new programs and expanding its pre-owned fleet to include brand-new aircraft. The company eventually transitioned to a select group of four new aircraft models: the popular small-cabin Hawker 400, midsize Hawker 800, the superfast Cessna Citation X and the 13-passenger large-cabin Embraer Legacy 600.
All New Options
Recently, Ricci returned to lead Flight Options five years after he sold the company, and now he’s taking it to even greater heights with innovative ideas focused on superior value. As new aircraft models, such as Embraer’s latest small-cabin Phenom 300, join the Flight Options fleet, Ricci plans to give buyers even greater choice by offering shares in the older aircraft that the newer models replace.
The company continues to take a fresh approach with programs such as Fractional First, which allows flexibility in adjusting annual flight hours up or down as needed. Another feature eliminates taxi time from annual utilization calculations, resulting in a 10% to 15% increase in usable hours. Flight Options also offers innovative off-peak pricing discounts on longer flights; and for flights outside the service area, only fuel charges (not flight-time costs) are incurred on repositioning legs. Lease options for periods as short as 12 months add even greater flexibility.
Last year, the fractional provider expanded its capabilities in aircraft management with two programs for whole-aircraft owners who prefer to let experts handle the management responsibilities. With Turnkey Aircraft Management, Flight Options assigns a dedicated flight crew, maintenance technicians and an around-the-clock service team, so all you have to do is pick up the phone and go. The program also offers owners the opportunity to gain charter revenue, which can reduce overall operating expenses.
Another alternative program, Fractional Interchange Management, is designed for those who want significant charter revenues. Your wholly owned aircraft, configured exactly like others in the Flight Options fractional ownership fleet, can be made available to other owners. In turn, you receive whole aircraft and fractional ownership benefits in addition to revenue when others use the plane.
Originally conceived for those seeking more affordable options on short-haul regional flights, CitationShares quickly emerged from its well-established small-jet niche with some exceptional larger-cabin Cessna jets. The fleet’s mainstay is the Cessna Citation Sovereign, which offers a midsize cabin, stand-up headroom and nonstop coast-to-coast capability. It joins the Citation XL, which features a stand-up cabin, seating for nine and Boston-to-Denver range; as well as the Cessna CJ3, CitationShares’ smaller and most affordable jet — perfect for short regional hops.
“You’re on ‘Market Wrap with Moe,’” announces the commanding voice. Moe Ansari is hitting the airwaves from Phoenix with his syndicated financial talk-radio broadcast for audiences from San Diego to Seattle to Denver.
Ansari is president and chief portfolio manager of Compak Asset Management, an Irvine, Calif.-based investment and wealth management firm. He broadcasts direct from 11 stations and regularly schedules face-to-face client meetings throughout the West. “Clients don’t want to hand their life savings over to a radio voice,” he says. But debilitating commercial flights from Irvine to Scottsdale and other destinations imposed terrible time and physical penalties in addition to overnight stays or late-night returns. “What’s your time worth and what’s the value of losing four or five hours every trip?” he asks.
After a meticulous financial analysis, Ansari determined that a fractional share in a Flight Options Hawker 400 offered excellent value. “It’s a business tool that you have to use in today’s environment to gain a competitive advantage.” He experienced the benefits immediately. “It became so convenient. I ended up flying 70 hours in the first eight or nine months.”
Today, he’ll wrap up his show at 5:00 p.m. in Scottsdale. By 5:15 p.m. he’ll board his aircraft and be home with his family in just over an hour. “It makes such a big difference in the quality of life,” he says. “When you look at it strictly from a cost basis, it’s very difficult to justify. But when you experience the convenience, the efficiency and the benefits, it becomes a very easy decision.”
From a business perspective, it makes perfect sense. “We started to realize how much more efficient it is,” says Ansari. “It definitely gives us a lot more flexibility.” Now three or four staff members travel with him at no extra cost, and they fly on their schedule, not an airline’s. “It’s a big plus,” he adds.
To handle the extra flying, Ansari added a Flight Options JetPASS to supplement his fractional share hours. And since Flight Options doesn’t deduct taxi time from his annual flight-hour allocation, he gains even greater value. “That [adds up to] a tremendous amount of extra flying time,” he says.
Ansari attributes his growing business, the increasing size of his talk-radio audience and enriched personal opportunities to his company plane. Travel is a truly different experience, he says. “The thrill is back.”
Along with expanding the fleet, CitationShares streamlined its programs and payment system with a program called CiteLines™. Other than the initial capital investment, management fees and hourly costs are built into a single annual payment or equal monthly installments, resulting in simplified, “no surprises” budgeting. CiteLines also offers reduced nonpeak pricing options, lowering travel costs even further. Owners can choose from four pricing levels, depending on their flexibility in dodging the 45 busiest days of the year. The more peak days avoided, the greater the savings.
If you can make travel plans on short notice, the “Impromptu” option offering low rates on normally empty repositioning flights could be the perfect answer. And it’s an even bigger bargain, since flight time isn’t deducted from regular program hours.
Need extra hours beyond your annual share allocation? “Jaunt” allows you to purchase additional hours during nonpeak periods at special rates in any of CitationShares’ fleet types. It’s an ideal solution for those who need extra hours but don’t desire an additional fractional investment.
Owners are becoming increasingly more sophisticated about choosing the best plane for the task, says CitationShares Founder and Chief Executive Officer Steve O’Neill. They’ll take the larger-cabin Sovereign for longer flights with more passengers or baggage and frequently downgrade to a smaller jet at a lower cost for shorter trips or when few are traveling. “Sixty-five percent of CitationShares owners also choose to fly during nonpeak periods, which reduces overall flying cost even further,” he says.
During challenging economic times, travelers become increasingly sensitive to costs. Still, despite rising fuel costs, O’Neill sees little or no impact on owner flying or jet-card sales. In fact, second-quarter Vector JetCard sales were up 300% from first quarter 2008. People must still travel for personal and business reasons, he says: “They’d rather pay a premium [for the JetCard] to have a lesser commitment instead of the hefty capital investment and five-year contract [required for fractional ownership].”
The company plane was simply essential for business, says Don Davis, Rockwell Automation Inc.’s former chief executive and chairman. “Without it, I could not have visited three locations in one day. With the plane, I made these important trips with no trouble at all,” he says. Davis and his business colleagues appreciated the increased productivity, convenience and time savings gained from operating a business aircraft.
Today, Davis fully enjoys retirement, and his fractional share in a CitationShares Cessna CJ3 makes his free time that much more pleasant. Personal opportunities and shared moments with family — particularly in one’s golden years — are too valuable to fritter away in airline terminals, he explains. And with homes in Milwaukee and Sedona, Ariz., he’s had it with debilitating daylong commercial flight marathons. Now he easily makes the trip in just over three hours, and, he says, “If we take a vacation to a remote spot, it sure is nice to use that plane.” Trips he’d avoid on the airlines are now rewarding, such as attending a football game in Shreveport, La., or playing golf at a remote spot. “I flew to Bandon Dunes [in Bandon, Ore.], and 30 minutes later I was at the golf course,” he says.
Davis used a CitationShares Vector JetCard while waiting for his CJ3 to become available. It’s a perfect supplement to fractional ownership, he says. Now he’s flying high in his CJ3, which offers a comfortable cabin that can easily accommodate three or four traveling companions. His jet provides the range he needs and lands on shorter runways. For longer trips, he conveniently upgrades to an XL or Sovereign.
Initially Davis tried charter, but he prefers the safety, convenience, flexibility and consistent service that CitationShares provides. He acknowledges that it’s expensive to fly this way, but he advises, “Don’t just consider the cost. Factor in the intangible benefits — the time savings, the lack of wear and tear. This accounts for a lot.” Reflecting on the greatly improved quality of his life, he adds, “You realize it all makes so much sense. Aren’t we lucky we’re able to do this?”
Unique fractional ownership provider Avantair rocketed to success on Founder and Chief Executive Officer Steve Santo’s unconventional approach. As the exclusive provider of shares in the futuristic-looking Piaggio Avanti with forward-wing and rearward-facing twin turboprop engines, Santo is piloting the company to new heights.
Despite the domestic economic malaise, Avantair business is up, according to Santo. “We’ve increased our hours flown, quarter to quarter, by more than 10%, and we’ve added new owners. Nobody is flying less,” he says. “People are focusing on practicality and value as the real reason to look toward business aviation.” It’s one reason why some 20% of Avantair owners increase their share size within the first year.
The big attraction, says Santo, is the Avanti’s combination of efficiency and value. The avant-garde design features a quiet stand-up cabin as large as that of a midsize jet; a 460-mph cruise speed that’s faster than that of many light jets; the ability to climb well above weather and airline traffic; and, particularly important with skyrocketing fuel prices, fuel economy claiming a 40% improvement over smaller jets. With short-field performance providing access to hundreds of airfields and ample range to fly halfway across the nation, “you’ve got a combination that’s hard to beat,” Santo adds.
Flying High at a Lower Cost
Avantair claims one of the industry’s lowest costs of entry to fractional ownership benefits; and that, together with the company’s inventive programs, is an essential factor in its success. While owners are delighted with the high levels of service and steadfast focus on safety, the single-price monthly (or annual) billing plan, which Avantair pioneered, earns rave reviews. The plan, which simplifies budgeting and eliminates some often confusing fractional ownership complexities, combines all management fees and flight charges so your bill remains the same. You can fly five hours of your annual allocation in a month or a day, and the charges remain the same. In addition, a recently launched Avantair program enables owners to fly for significantly lower fees if they can be flexible enough to hop aboard normally empty repositioning flights. Owners receive flight notification via e-mail the day before, and if they can take advantage of a similar itinerary, the savings are considerable.
“What’s your time worth and what’s the value of losing four or five hours every trip?
[A private jet is] a business tool that you have to use in today’s environment to gain a
competitive advantage. We started to realize how much more efficient it is. It’s a big plus.”
Moe Ansari, Compak Asset Management
A two-day trip to conduct four client meetings in three different states halfway across the nation sounds impossible to many, but it was as easy as an online trade for Thomas R. Denison, chief executive officer of private equity fund Next Step Investments LLC. Although Denison specializes in the energy and technology sectors, one of his best investments is his fractional share in an Avantair Piaggio Avanti turboprop, which is paying big dividends.
“I run a very small private equity fund, and I am keeping track of five growing small businesses in different parts of the country.” These places aren’t easy to get to commercially without connections, he explains, and that means losing nearly a full day.
Now, with Avantair, his travel strategy has totally changed — and it’s yielding new business opportunities. “My travel plans often change; yet whenever I call for a plane, it’s there,” he says. “It’s allowed me to do a lot more. There were important meetings that I could not physically make unless I [had the Avanti].”
Getting there fast is one thing, but being efficient while you travel is something else. Avantair allows him both. The large, comfortable and quiet cabin makes working en route easy. Denison also appreciates Avantair’s annual billing plan. He pays once for the year and then flies as much or as little as he wants in any month without any budget concerns.
Even though Dennison is very impressed with the Avanti’s fuel efficiency, which lowers his flying costs significantly, he concedes that flying privately is much more expensive than a commercial flight. But when you factor in the elements that don’t appear on a balance sheet, like the unquestionable business and personal advantages, the flexibility to control your schedule and the ability to change plans on short notice, there’s no comparison, he says. There’s also a therapeutic benefit. “Commercial travel takes a toll on you mentally and physically,” he says. “Until you have experienced travel without the stress, you don’t really realize how much it wears on you.”
With a business that imposes immense time demands, opportunities to be with family are golden. That’s why he also relies on Avantair for personal flights between his homes in the Denver area and Southern California. He gains cherished family time and avoids scheduling inconveniences and inevitable flight delays, not to mention the additional time it takes to drive to Denver’s commercial airport. For Denison, Avantair is clearly a deal maker. “I don’t know that we would have a second home if we didn’t have the ability to get back and forth so easily.”